Festival Preview: Reading and Leeds 2007

01 August 2007

Not so long ago, there were two,maybe three, music festivals each summer. They were events, dates thatany self-respecting music fan built thier entire calendararound.

Now, with literally every weekend in June, July andAugust paying host to all manner of events, some may argue that the buzzof those big beasts is a thing of the past.

Which it may well be, but the Carling Weekender(the Reading and Leeds Festivals to you and me) still bestrides thefestival season like a collosus. Whether it be the history of memorablemoments (50 Cent being bottled, Kurt Cobain being wheeled onstage in ahospital smock, Muse‘s franklyastonishing lightshow), or the strength of the line-up, the thousands ofpeople who will converge upon Little John’s Farm in Reading and BranhamPark in Leeds over the August Bank Holiday weekend will be treating itas the highlight of their year.

It may lack the atmosphere of aGlastonbury or a Latitude, or even the quirky appeal of a Secret GardenParty or End Of The Road, it may be impossible to move without beingplagued by corporate sponsorship, and there may be only one type oflager allowed to be drunk all weekend, but the Carling Weekender stillhas something pretty special about it.

As ever, the Mean Fiddlerorganisers have put together another impressive line-up for 2007. Whileexciting names such as Muse or Pixiesmay be missing from the headliners, one of the beauties of the CarlingWeekender is seeking out some of the names tucked just under theheadlining acts.

Friday 24 August (Leeds)/Sunday 26 August(Reading)

In keeping with tradition, the main stage on this day isalmost entirely given over to rock and metal acts. The big draw of theday is undoubtably Smashing Pumpkins,although some may say the excitement generated by their announcement haspaled somewhat after hearing the rather underwhelming Zeitgiest album. Still,Billy Corgan is always good value, and just possibly the old favourites fromthe classic Siamise Dream and Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness will be dusted off to roarsof approval.

Nine InchNails, who would surely be headliners any other year, take up thesupporting act – Trent Reznor’s intense, apolcalyptic industrial rockwill no doubt prove popular. Guaranteed to prove slightly more divisiseare the pop/rock of lostprophets and Fall Out Boy – the ‘is itemo?’ debate rages on still. Meanwhile, Blink 182 off-shoot +44have decided they’d rather stay in the studio then play the festival.Can’t say they’ll be missed…

If rock and metal fails to floatyour boat, then you may be best off hanging round the NME/Radio 1 tent.Here, Klaxons will be wavingglow-sticks around and summoning the spirits of Nu-Rave as theyheadline, while the rather more restrained, if no less entertaining, LCD Soundsystem will havethe entire tent jumping with the highlights of this year’s Sound OfSilver.

In fact, the NME/Radio 1 Tent is pleasingly varied thisyear – as well as the usual guitar totin’ suspects such as the excellentMaccabees and Hadouken!, we have Brazilian funahoy with CSS, glottal-stop rhymingaplenty with Jamie T and etherealfolky pixieness from Devendra Banhart, who has a new album to showcase. Not tomention California’s ColdWar Kids and the highly regarded electro-dance kids from Nottingham,Late Of The Pier.

The Carling Tent is where you’ll find aneclectic mix of acts, ranging from the critically adored (theself-proclaimed ‘best bar band in America’, headliners The Hold Steady) to the ‘I’msure they should be on a bigger stage’ acts (Kate Nash, continuing herapparent quest to play every festival this summer). It’s also agood chance to catch some future big names on a stage where you canstill see the whites of their eyes – previous early afternoonappearances in the Carling Tent have included The Subways and – mostfamously – ArcticMonkeys. So catch Manchester Orchestra, Frank Turnerand especially Reverend And TheMakers before they go stratospheric.

As per usual at Reading andLeeds, there’s also the Unsigned Stage, the Lock Up Tent (more rock andmetal, including New Found Glory, Dwarves and Against Me) and if youfancy a break from moshing you can always have a giggle in the ComedyTent where some of the country’s best stand-ups, such as Never MindThe Buzzcocks host Simon Amstell, are there toentertain.

Saturday 25 August (Leeds)/Friday 24 August(Reading)

Perhaps the best tip on this day is to get thereearly to see the marvellous Pipettes, if you’ve somehow missed them over the last 18 months of tours, as they kick off proceedingson the Main Stage. Whether polka dots and hand-jives will havequite the same effect in the early afternoon in front of a field ofhungover festival goers is perhaps a moot point. Nevertheless, Saturdayat the Main Stage is ‘stadium indie’ day – the chance to catch all thosebands who played the NME/Radio 1 Tent last year but in front of a muchbigger crowd.

Razorlight are the day’sheadliners, and while Johnny Borrell remains one of the most divisivefigures in modern music, there’s no doubting that he does have somemeasure of star quality. While last year’s rather disappointingself-titled album saw the band soften their edges to appeal to a massaudience, it did the job and anthems such as America and In The Morningwill no doubt be sung along to with gusto. There’ll also be therequisite teenage girls fainting as soon as Borrell decides toinevitably take his shirt off.

The supporting acts on the mainstage include Kings of Leon,the Followill family plugging their third and best album, while NewYork’s finest Joy Division fans Interpol willset about creating the most atmospheric and dramatic music of the weekend. Also tobe seen on the main stage are Sheffield’s Long Blondes, Beth Ditto andher Gossip chums, and, freshfrom their rather bemusing appearance at Live Earth with Madonna, gypsypunks Gogol Bordello. Hardest working band of the day has to beJimmy Eat World however -as well as their appearance on the main stage, they’ll also beheadlining the Lock Up tent later in the evening.

If you don’t fancy adose of Razorlight, then the NME/Radio 1 Tent will be offering Ash as analternative. Back down to a trio, Tim Wheeler and company have pledgedto just release download singles from now on, and their set isguaranteed to be full of the sparky punk-pop gems that made their name.There’s also New York punk rockers Brand New, The Subways(hopefully previewing that long-awaited second album) and Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape Wear CapeFly. If you’re over 25, it’s probably best to make an exit when it’stime for The Horrors and Enter Shikari, or at least beprepared to feel quite extraordinarily old…

Over at the CarlingTent, headline duties are taken by The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr,plugging his solo album from earlier in the year, sparkly redhead PatrickWolf, and London’s very own Jack Penate will beshowcasing those mind-boggling dance moves while giving a sneak previewof his forthcoming debut album.

Sunday 26 August(Leeds)/Saturday 25 August (Reading)

A good game to playduring a festival is “I can’t believe they’re not headlining”. Today isprobably the best day to play this as the superlative Arcade Fire have the indignityof warming up for the crowd for Red Hot ChiliPeppers, still plugging the rather bloated Stadium Arcadiumalbum 18 months after its release. Still, get there in good time for theCanadians as they appear to be reaching new heights with eachperformance. If their Glastonbury appearance was anything to go by, theLeeds and Reading crowds are in for a treat.

The final day inLeeds sees a rather mixed bag on the main stage – from the sublimeexcellence of Bloc Party tothe theatrical emo-rock of Panic! At The Disco.Blink 182 fans can also see former lead singer Tom DeLongue with his newU2 inspired band Angels And Airwaves,while The Shins should providethe perfect soundtrack for sitting back in the late summer sunshine (wehope).

The NME/Radio 1 Tent sees Scottish indie urchins The View headline, 12 months afterpacking out the Carling Tent. Be prepared for incessant chants of “TheView are on fire” and, if you’re in the middle of the moshpit, to betossed around like a rag doll during Wasted Little DJs. They’ll be morefootball chants of the “Yooooorkkkshireeee” variety as soon as Leedsboys The PigeonDetectives take to the stage, while the more veteran grunge fanswill be curious to see whether the original line-up of Dinosaur Jr can recreate themagic of the early ’90s. Less palatably is the appearance of The Twang, Birmingham’s baggyrevivalists, who seem intent on recreating the days of Madchester butwithout any of the decent songs.

Over at the Carling Tent, there’sthe rollicking dance-rock of Canada’s own Hot Hot Heat, the intriguingexperimental post-rock of Battles – a potential weekend highlight – and the rather moretraditional angsty pop-rock of TheAcademy Is…. Today is also notable for the Lock Up Tent changingto the Dance Arena, where all manner of electro acts will be appearing.James Lavelle’s UNKLE headline(no word yet on whether any of their many guest vocalists will beaccompanying them), the sheer fun of Norway’s Datarock, raucous rap from Lethal Bizzle (will he find time to duet with Kate Nash on Look What You Done?) and intenseGerman electro from Digitalism.

So, there really issomething for everyone. Just pack those wellies and waterproofs – as onewho was caught in the downpour during Muse’s set last year, this writercan assure you that suffering from bronchial ‘flu several weeks intoSeptember ain’t no fun at all….

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